Presidency suspends oil blocks allocation

THIS DAY Newspaper-Chika Amanze-Nwanchuku

The Federal Government has ordered an immediate suspension of all actions regarding fresh allocations of oil blocks or marginal fields until President Umaru Yar’Adua returns to the country. It was gathered that the directive was sequel to a recent interview granted to some international media by the Presidential Adviser on Petroleum Matters, Dr. Emmanuel Egboga to the effect that the federal government was planning new oil licensing round this year. Egboga in the interview said oil blocks holding an estimated two billion barrels of reserves would be offered to prospective investors. It was learnt that the Presidency considered these disclosures ‘embarrassing’, as issues of acreage allocation licences are not within Egboga’s schedule of responsibility. Sources said if the directive would stand, it meant that current negotiations with potential investors with the Petroleum Ministry regarding new investments in the oil and gas sector would also have to be put on hold. Presidency sources confirmed last night that a memo may have been written by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan barring the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman from going ahead with all issues regarding fresh allocations or dealings with respect to oil blocks or marginal fields pending Yar’Adua’s return. The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Odein Ajumogobia and Egboga were also copied in the memo. Sources said the VP in the memo directed that express clearance must be obtained from him “should there be any compelling need for allocation of oil blocks or any such dealing.” The directive by the Presidency, sources further hinted, is an indication that the planned oil licensing round announced by the Presidential Adviser might not have received the final endorsement of the President or Ajumogobia, the minister in charge. Yar’Adua had last October approved a new schedule of responsibilities for Lukman and Ajumogobia. The new job schedule, which was communicated to the ministers in a memo written by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mahmud Yayale Ahmed, dated October 13, 2009, puts Lukman in charge of the Gas Master Plan Transition Implementation, the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas, the alternative fuels, and the Petroleum Equalisation Fund. Ajumogobia, under the schedule of duties was to oversee the Directorate of Petroleum Resources, including responsibility for all acreage allocation licenses, lease awards, renewals, assignments and all other approvals relating to regulatory matters. He is also to oversee the Petroleum Training Institute and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency. The President also directed Ajumogobia to assist Lukman in the formulation and implementation of policies within his scheduled areas in a manner to support the realisation of the mandates of the ministry. Under the new schedule of responsibilities Lukman takes overall charge in the formulation and implementation of policies necessary for the realisation of the mandate of the ministry. In addition, he will oversee the implementation of the oil industry reform programme and Petroleum Industry Bill, the Incorporated Joint Venture (IJV) negotiation and rollout, the fiscal terms transition and implementation, the new organisation implementation and transition, and stakeholder management. Lukman is also to supervise the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and its subsidiaries, including the Petroleum Technology Deve-lopment Fund, Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Autho-rity, the National Petroleum Investments Management Services, College of Petroleum Studies, Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries/African Petroleum Producers Association and the University of Petroleum. Contrary to insinuations that the prolonged absence of Yar’Adua had crippled oil and gas projects and renewal of oil block licenses, it was revealed that the projects were stalled due to the non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill by the National Assembly. A highly placed industry source said last night that the Petroleum Act conferred on the Minister of State for Petroleum, in this case, Ajumogobia, the power to handle issues regarding acreage allocations. They contended that by that provision, the minister would not require any written permission from the president before exercising his constitutional powers. Efforts to reach the two ministers for comments last night proved abortive.


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